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Investigator in fire chief suicide to publish report

Fraud: Findings in Timothy J. Ottman’s death could be made available to public as early as April

Posted: January 16, 2011 10:15 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

The investigator looking into allegations of fraud and illegal building contracts handled by the Los Angeles County Fire Department says her findings will be published on a Los Angeles County website, possibly as early as April.

The investigator, who would not give her name according to department protocol, works for the Los Angeles County Department of Auditor-Controller’s Office of County Investigations.

Her investigation into allegations of fraud also involves the death of civilian Fire Chief Timothy J. Ottman, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in October.

County fraud hotline
Part of her responsibilities at the County Investigations Office is following up on complaints received on the county’s fraud hotline.

One such complaint received last year involved allegations that county fire officials were committing fraud and handling illegal building contracts.

Most hotline complaints are found to be unsubstantiated, the investigator said. But each comes under scrutiny.

“I’m sure you can appreciate that I cannot disclose any information about the case,” she said Thursday.

“The complaints are investigated and published in these quarterly reports,” which are published online, she said. “These are all finalized investigations and, as a matter of process, this one will be, too.”

Suicide
On Oct. 26, in a public parking lot in Ventura, Ottman shot himself in the head with a .45-caliber pistol.

On the front seat of his white pickup truck, Ventura investigators found six envelopes he had addressed to his wife and children, according to details of an investigation conducted by Ventura County Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Stevens.

In his report, Stevens explained how he opened two envelopes in the course of his investigation.

His report reads: “One of the notes read in part, ‘I hurt the Dept. I love, people I work with.”

This led Stevens ultimately to contact the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

According to Stevens, when he asked a Fire Department official if there was “anything going at work that might have troubled (Ottman),” he was told about the internal investigation — that it involved contracts, Ottman and other people.

Fire chiefs contacted repeatedly by The Signal all said they are prohibited by policy to discuss details of the case.

“This is a personnel issue, and we cannot offer any comment, nor do I have any information,” said Fire Chief John Obrien.

Building fire stations

Ottman helped build a significant number of fire stations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

As a 24-year veteran of the Fire Department, he was a civilian chief in charge of the Construction and Maintenance Division, having overseen the construction of existing fire stations.

Most recently, he was involved in getting six new stations built in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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